A handful of survivors from a disastrous 1528 Spanish expedition to Florida journey across the coast until they reach Mexico.
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Juan Diego ...
...
Dorantes
...
Cascabel / Araino
Carlos Castañón ...
Castillo
Gerardo Villarreal ...
Estebanico
Roberto Cobo ...
Lozoya (as Roberto 'Calambres' Cobo)
José Flores ...
Malacosa
Eli 'Chupadera' Machuca ...
Sorcerer
Farnesio de Bernal ...
Fray Suárez
Josefina Echánove ...
Anciana Avavar
Max Kerlow ...
Man in Armor
Óscar Yoldi ...
Esquivel
Ramón Barragán ...
Pánfilo de Narváez
Julio Solórzano Foppa ...
Alcaraz
Javier Escobar Villarreal ...
Young Iguase Indian
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Storyline

An international award winning saga of old Mexico. In 1528, a Spanish expedition founders off the coast of Florida with 600 lives lost. One survivor, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, roams across the American continent searching for his Spanish comrades. Instead, he discovers the Iguase, an ancient Indian tribe. Over the next eight years, Cabeza de Vaca learns their mystical and mysterious culture, becoming a healer and a leader. But soon this New World collides with the Old World as Spanish conquistadors seek to enslave the Indians, and Cabeza de Vaca must confront his own people and his past. Written by Concorde - New Horizons (with permission).

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Release Date:

17 April 1992 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Die Abenteuer des Cabeza de Vaca  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Gross:

$789,127 (USA)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Eastmancolor)
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The huge figure of a naked man wielding a club which is created by the Indian sorcerer is an accurate representation of the ancient Celtic chalk carving known as the Cerne Abbas Giant, which is 60 metres in height and is located on a hillside overlooking the village of Cerne Abbas in Dorset, England. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Encounters at the Ends of the World
3 August 2010 | by (Greece) – See all my reviews

The conquest of a new world on behalf of the Spanish crown in the 16th century was built on atrocity and deceit, fueled by lies and rumours, greed and ambition. But also failure and anguish. Cabeza de Vaca is one such tale of failure and anguish. Cabeza, acting as the treasurer for Captain Narvaez's expedition, is shipwrecked off the Florida coast and picked on by natives. The historical details of his journey and gruelling subsequent life under capture are skewed though, the movie does not make attempts at historical realism, it goes for the primitive and spiritual. Or this is how it would be if the soldiers on the raft got rid of Aguirre and drifted further downstream to wash up in Herzog's Cobra Verde and become slaves to a shaman and his armless midget helper.

The world we're shown is at once horrible and wonderful and director Etchevveria photographs it as both. For big swathes of time the movie is without dialogue and we're crouching on the dirt as the natives perform elaborate rituals that mean nothing to us. The words are lost in the translation but the ceremonial aspect remains. Bodies covered in mud, painted blue and ghastly white, adorned with feathered headpieces, witch doctors making voices and calling out to something, Cabeza de Vaca, both movie and protagonist, observes it all with a half-mad stare and twitching hands.

When the survivors of the expedition reach Spanish hands again, one of them exalts the audience with tales of golden cities in the north and shaman potions that give the drinker the sexual prowess of 20 mules. Coronado traveled as far north to New Mexico to discover the 7 Cities of Gold probably on one such impossible tale recounted around the fire by drunken conquistadors desperate to believe. The will to empire is not only the pursuit of the mad and the hopeless, the ambitious and the greedy, but also in itself the result of myth and poetic fabrication, a self-fulfilling prophecy that becomes true by the simple fact it has been pursued.

The biggest flaw in the movie is the protagonist. Every time Juan Diego opens his mouth or gesticulates the results are cringeworthy. Manic ferocity came natural to Kinski because he was manic, Diego on the other hand chews scenery like he's playing this for the theater. When he's lost in his own thoughts and acts mad, the results are significantly better.

A filthy gaunt figure dressed in rags is climbing on ragged redrock terrain, walls of rock rising on all sides, he can barely traces his steps but there's nowhere to trace them to, he's a strange man lost in a strange violent world that makes no sense - the movie is his anguished cry in the wilderness echoed all around him like the wilderness is crying back at him. The final image is an ecstatic metaphor, like something Herzog would have improvised, and it's a stunning way to close the film.


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